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Humulus lupulus L., a very popular beer ingredient and medicinal plant: overview of its phytochemistry, its bioactivity, and its biotechnology


Humulus lupulus L. (Cannabaceae), commonly named hop, is widely grown around the world for its use in the brewing industry. Its female inflorescences (hops) are particularly prized by brewers because they produce some secondary metabolites that confer bitterness, aromas and antiseptic properties to the beer. These sought-after metabolites include terpenes and sesquiterpenes, found in essential oil, but also prenylated phenolic compounds, mainly acylphloroglucinols (bitter acids) from the series of α-acids (humulone derivatives). These metabolites have shown numerous biological activities, including among others, antimicrobial, sedative and estrogenic properties. This review provides an inventory of hop’s chemistry, with an emphasis on the secondary metabolites and their biological activities. These compounds of biological interest are essentially produced in female inflorescences, while other parts of the plant only synthetize low quantities of them. Lastly, our article provides an overview of the research in plant biotechnology that could bring alternatives for hops metabolites production.

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This work has been carried out in the framework of Alibiotech project which is financed by European Union, French State and the French Region of Hauts-de-France. The authors gratefully thank the Region Hauts-de-France and the University of Lille 2 for the funding of the Ph.D. fellow Laetitia Bocquet.

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Correspondence to C. Rivière.

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Bocquet, L., Sahpaz, S., Hilbert, J.L. et al. Humulus lupulus L., a very popular beer ingredient and medicinal plant: overview of its phytochemistry, its bioactivity, and its biotechnology. Phytochem Rev 17, 1047–1090 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-018-9584-y

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  • Hop
  • Humulus lupulus L.
  • Phytochemistry
  • Biological activities
  • Plant biotechnology